As it was all over the globe in the early times, creation of secret cult was a norm. These cults were created as deemed fit of society. Italian scientists, led by Galileo, created Illuminati. Americans till date has Masons. Yorùbá were not left out, they had Ogboni, the longest, most enduring and apex of ancient Brotherhood recognised all over Yorùbá lands. Time of creation remains unknown, due to its longetivity and the fact that Africans had no written documents.
Futhermore, no one can authoritatively beat chest and he knows all that’s happening there, without being a member. Yet, all that’s known of them is faithfully present thus:
In the olden days, Ogboni members were collections of elderly people in the Community. In fact, anyone less than 50 years old were not considered eligible members. And there seem to be little or no difference among the Cult chiefs and the chiefs in the Community.
These chiefs held jurisdictional powers over the king. They advised, mediated, sanctioned king. Not only these, they had the power to dethrone king. Or, at worst, tell him to go “open the calabash.”
The secret behind this “open of calabash” was: whenever the Community felt itself uder pressures and or duress due to the reign of a king, they simply put ‘oodẹ’ bird’s eggs inside calabash as aroko (symbological message) to the reigning king. Once the later saw this, he knew what it meant: death.
Second mode of was, they asked the king to go “open and look inside the ancestrial crown.” Remember, the legendary tussle between Bashọrun Gaa and Àlàáfín Abiọdun Adegorolu? It’s Gaa who incited other Ọ̀yọ́mesi against Àlàáfín Labisi, Awonbioju, Agboluaje and Majeogbe.They all commited suicide.
Ogboni was so powerful that, the Yorùbá people turned it to an axiom: “ọ fẹ́ jẹ ọba, ọọ ṣe Ogboni, olúwa rẹ yí o se ẹ̀mí ara rẹ lofo (You simply want to waste your life if you want to be king and not initiated into Ogboni Fraternity).
Even till date, powerful chieftainship titles in Ọ̀yọ́ lands, Ẹgbà, Ìjẹ̀bú, etc (such as Olúwo, Asipa, Apena) had Ogboni background.
However, the Cult has been bowed to the revolution of time in recency. For instance:
- It’s now open to both the young and old.
- All forms of anarchism had been rectified in their laws.
- It’s being populated by politicians, musicians, business mogul.
- it’s now an inter-religious Cult.
The 3rd point above reminds one case of one famous, old-day Yorùbá on whose 8th day Prayer the Ogboni came to claim the corpse.They simply told the Alfas that the cadaver belonged to them. Same was the case of a popular young gospeler whose corpse was being fought over by his family on one part and secret society on the other.
The 4th point brings to mind inter alia words one Ogboni bigwig who said there are people of heirachy in the Fraternity, regardless of (facade) religions they represent to the outside world.
THE CULT MEETING
Ogboni meetings hold every 17 days (ọjọ́ mẹ́tadínlógún). Though days of meeting in every community (may) differ; it’s tradition meetings hold has 16 days interval. Except for emergencies.
On the morning of the meeting, Chief Asipa (someone already designated with the chieftainship) would go and beat the sacred drum (àgbá) in Ilédi (the initiated coven. the full appelation being, Ilédi [àwọn ọmọ] àwo). By thus doing, all the members will be notified that they have meeting on that day.
Responsibilities of the meeting session is rotational among members of the cult. Someone who paid all the expenses for today’s meeting may not be responsible for another for years; depending on numbers of the members.
Chief of these responsibilities being, organization of what the members will feast on (being financial implication). Such as ekuru (beans pudding), oolẹ/moin-moin and ẹ̀kọ (corn meal). Sometimes, they may pound yam, with lots of meat and fish. Kola and bitter nuts are inclusive. But, Palm wine is the only accepted drink.
‘MOTHER BATH’ – ANNUAL RITUALS
This takes place yearly. It starts with making spiritual enquiry from Ọrunmila about which date to choose on which ‘Mother’ would have her bath.
This is merely bathing of woodeen effigy of Ìyá Abẹni l’Óòtu Ìfẹ́. Aji má jẹ́ nkan tó leègun. Ìyá mi Abẹni tí jagun tí ẹ tíì m’òkè. Afinju Ìyá tíì so kujikuji mon ọwọ.
To bath ‘Mother’, they use leaves such as ọgbọ́, òtítọ́, ọdúndun, tẹ̀tẹ̀, ṣẹfunfun, shea butter and omi ìgbín. They sqeeze these leaves together, add shea butter and palm oil.
They now bring ‘Mother’ out and bath her with all these. Afterward, they ask ‘Her’ whatever they want for the coming year: health, wealth, children, etc.
When the Ritual bath is done, they start the Annual Celebration. They ate the food mentioned above. This celebration continue for 3 days after which they return ‘Mother’ to Òkè.Till next year. This, however, doesn’t stop the meetings.
I must admit I removed and obstruct
some details here, for secrecy and not very sure about them. Better remove than tell what’s not.
THE DRESS CODE
Whenever they are going to the Meeting or some important social meeting, Ogboni members’ dress code is always distinct.
While going to Meeting, they would wear white trousers, have another piece wrapped on their chest and wear one large hat.After this, they would have another piece put on shoulders. This last cloth is like the one priests put on shoulders. Then they would complement it with their staff.This staff is very noticeable and prominent. Reason being it has different statues engraved on its head.
These statues, however, make people have misconception that Ogboni members worship these statues.What difference it make to outsiders, who know them as idolaters; i.e worship of Abẹni statue?
If it’s some important social gathering, they would neither wear the white trousers, wrap the cloth piece on chest nor wear the large hat, but after they have dressed up they mustn’t forget the ‘topper’ cloth mentioned earlier, like the priests.This topper piece is the symbol of identity.
Also, it is a must that Ogboni members put red bead on the left hand. This is very, very essential. I repeat, very essential.
HOW THEY GREET ONE ANOTHER
By greeting they are known. If Mr. A sees Mr. B but Mr. B doesn’t see him, Mr. A would shout “ọmọ ìyá (my sibling)”.Once Mr. B hears that he would naturally look Mr. A’s direction and shout same greeting.And when they meet, they shake the left hands. There are some other words of greeting in this ancient brotherhood.
“What is known about Ogboni hands is their famous handshake. When they handshake,they use their left hand to do this. You should also say the following words: Ta ba fẹ bá ọwọ Ogboni, ọwọ osi la na, a na kan siwaju, a na kan saarin.Why do they use left hand? It’s simple! According to their belief – the left hand is for gods, and the right hand is for humans.”
“Ọmọ Ìyá”, bastardized “child of (same) mother (as me)” obviously refers to goddess Abẹni whose wodden effigy they worship.
When a newcomer wants to come into the Iledi Awo before or during meeting he would knock the door thrice. Those inside would answer:
Question: Taní nkan’lẹ̀kùn (who is knocking?)
Answer: Emi olùkan ni (it is I the knocker)
Question: Kíni o fi ń kan (with what are you knocking)?
Answer: Eku méjì oluwere (two rats of swift rapidity)